A Voice From the Dark Side – Confessions of a Retitler


Vaughn Johnson, composer and President of ScoreKeepers Music, recently wrote an article for Film Magazine and has given us permission to post it here. It’s nice to hear another point of view from one of the more successful non-exclusive retitling music libraries.

A Voice From the “Dark Side”: Confessions of a Retitler

Hi, my name is Vaughn Johnson and I’m a retitler.

I am a composer by trade with a great deal of experience selling all rights to my music as a hired hand for television production. When I became involved in the music library business, I set out to provide a different experience for composers by offering them an opportunity to retain ownership of their work. I wondered if, as a publisher, there would be a way to collect royalties only for those broadcast performances that are the result of my company’s placements. I discussed these issues with a representative from BMI when I started this venture. He suggested that we retitle the tracks as that would be the simplest solution to properly allocate publishing royalties per our agreement.

I have read the criticism and misinformation swirling around the internet regarding non-exclusive libraries and the practice of retitling, and feel motivated to raise my voice with others who view the non-exclusive model as a viable alternative.

It is worth noting that my business deals with providing instrumental underscore tracks for TV, not pitching individual songs. Perhaps in the world of advertising, promos, etc. where individual songs compete for placement, the retitling concerns take on a different scope than what I’ll discuss below. Since I do not represent the views of other non-exclusive libraries, some of my responses are personalized to accurately reflect the philosophies and practices of my own company.

Criticism #1. Multiple claims of ownership/legal disputes and ethical issues

Only one party owns the music: the composer. He/she has given us non-exclusive control, the authority to retitle, and the right to collect publishing royalties generated from our placements. Non-exclusive library administrators understand that the cue sheet indicates which title was actually used in the broadcast and therefore which party is entitled to collect publishing royalties. Opponents of retitling are making this practice out to be some sort of back-room deception, using terms such as sketchy, unethical, and insidious. In reality, retitling affords complete accuracy in administering non-exclusive deals by providing the simplest way to satisfy the terms of the agreement.

Criticism #2. Blacklisting by TV clients

I work with producers and editors every day to make sure they have the music and service they need to create successful scores for their programs. They are not concerned where the cleared music came from, or if they can get the same music from another source. They need great music that works for their shows. And lots of it. Deliver that with a smile and they’re happy. I have not encountered any “blacklists”. However, if there are music supervisors or networks that have a problem with non-exclusive libraries, I offer a solution: You don’t need to rule out all non-exclusive libraries, you just need to rule out all but one. One non-exclusive library fits nicely alongside your exclusive libraries and offers a wealth of great music that the exclusives can’t provide.

Criticism #3. Retitling devalues your music

Sustained financial success in the TV music business comes from performance royalties. You don’t get a higher royalty rate because your composition is represented exclusively. From my viewpoint, retitling increases the value of your music by allowing more opportunities for placements and generating royalties. I think most of us will admit that there is a degree of luck involved in this business. As a composer, how do you know which library will be the “lucky” one with your track?

We have composers who are making a substantial annual income due to one particular show for which we provide music. Had these composers put their tracks in an exclusive library (or, for that matter, divided their tracks among non-exclusives) they may have seen income from different sources, but completely missed out on the huge ongoing payout from that particular show. In cases like this, these non-exclusive retitles have proven to be invaluable.

Criticism #4. No possibility of exclusive deals

Composers, do you think that if there is an opportunity for exclusive libraries to make money from your music they will say, “No thanks, that track has been tainted with non-exclusivity”? If the music works and they have clients who are willing to pay for it, I’m sure they’d be happy to take it off of your hands. And per our deal, we will remove any track from our database at the composer’s request, in order to accommodate a better opportunity for them.

Criticism #5. Retitling can attach inferior titles to your songs

Not true with our company. We use actual and completely new titles that complement search parameters in our database to make tracks as useful and marketable as possible. What advantage would we gain by assigning an inferior title?

Criticism #6. Limited potential for international income

We have a system in place that legally affords our composer-owned catalogue international placements and receipt of all applicable royalties including mechanical royalties.

Criticism #7. Performances not tracked by fingerprinting/sound recognition technology

Recently, a music library that uses TuneSat recognition technology claimed that a track credited to me on cue sheet was actually theirs. After reviewing the track itself, it was clear to all parties that the cue sheet was correct and the track was mine. Here’s what caused the trouble:

Both my track and the track from the other library used the same drum loop, with different overdubs. I had added timpani, while the other composer had added guitar. I contacted TuneSat to inquire as to how my track could have been mistaken for the one it fingerprinted. TuneSat’s response was that the track they had in its database was the closest match to the track that was broadcast (mine). Closest? Doesn’t sound like a fingerprint match to me. TuneSat acknowledged that improvements to their technology are necessary to account for different compositions that use the same commercially available loops and sounds, as well as compositions that have been retitled. It is evident that until this technology is perfected, we can anticipate inaccurate results. Perhaps the ultimate solution in sound recognition technology will be one that can account for both the use of drum loops and retitling.

Criticism #8. Non-exclusive libraries are less motivated to promote your tracks

Another generalization that is untrue in our case. Our company is thriving because we work diligently to promote our composers’ tracks. We like making money and our composers do too. ?

Some claim that non-exclusive libraries are only interested in amassing cues—regardless of quality—in order to boast a large track count. In our case, we only accept high quality cues that are sonically and compositionally useful in television underscore. We champion quantity when it’s quality.

Criticism #9. Actual quote: “Exclusive libraries have a long track record of generating steady income for composers; non-exclusive libraries, on the other hand, are doing everything possible to drive sync fees out of existence and to further accelerate the devaluation of music in the marketplace.”

I will assume that the author’s generalization is an effort to stir up discussion and that he doesn’t actually believe these points to be absolutes. I will address each issue separately:

A. “Exclusive libraries have a long track record of generating steady income for composers.”

I’m sure for some this is true, but isn’t it possible that there are composers who sold their copyright to an exclusive library and have never seen another dime for that composition? Is it possible that they have sold several pieces and after years of exclusive representation have only seen an occasional trickling of performance royalties? These same disappointing results are possible with non-exclusives as well. The difference is that with non-exclusive deals, composers keep their copyrights, control their material, and can pursue many outlets for representation and potential income.

I recently received a call from a very good composer. He has music in our non-exclusive library and has also provided music for several major exclusive libraries over the years. He stated that ours is the only library from which he has seen substantial performance royalty income. For him, generating “steady income” turned out to be the product of a non-exclusive deal. It’s not the music library business model that determines whether or not a composer will make money. Both exclusive and non-exclusive libraries can generate steady income for composers.

B. “Non-exclusive libraries, on the other hand, are doing everything possible to drive sync fees out of existence and to further accelerate the devaluation of music in the marketplace.”

The assumption that it is the motive of non-exclusive libraries to lower fees in an effort to devalue music is absurd. There is more than one factor contributing to decreasing upfront fees in the television music business. As far as music libraries go, low-ball bids are not the sole domain of the non-exclusives. We have had our pricing undercut before by big, reputable, exclusive libraries. Obviously no one in this business is above doing what it takes to compete.

When considering the value of music composed for TV, every experienced composer in this marketplace knows that the sync, or upfront fees are inconsequential when compared to performance royalty income. Any business focused on getting music on the air to generate broadcast royalties truly values the income potential of that music. Our company not only places high value on the income potential of composers’ music, but on their right to keep ownership of it.

In conclusion, we all want to write some cool tunes and make some money while we’re at it. In the music-licensing world, the past few years have proven that you don’t have to be affiliated with a traditional production music library to make a buck. Is it a market-share-scare that would cause some of these exclusives to ban together to cast aspersion on a different business model? Do they feel that by demonizing the practice of retitling they will undermine their non-exclusive competitors? Surely there is room for more than one way to represent a composer’s catalogue. The important issue is the composer’s ability to maintain rights to his/her hard work. I question the motives of any party that would castigate an honest effort used to advance that cause.

I believe it is the composers, not the naysayers, who will determine the future of retitling. An alternative method may emerge, one that may require more complicated administration, but still offers non-exclusive representation. It’s been my experience that music for picture has many lives and many uses. A well-structured non-exclusive deal affords the owners of those useful compositions many opportunities for income, and at the same time leaves open the possibility of selling their works exclusively should the right deal come along.

Vaughn Johnson, Composer/President ScoreKeepers Music

80 Replies to “A Voice From the Dark Side – Confessions of a Retitler”

  1. As a composer who has not published even one of his works yet, I find this world of deciding how to release my material into the world quite confusing. How is a newbee like myself supposed to decide which method (exclusive or non-exclusive) to use? Obviously my compositions are important to me and it seems on the outside looking in that I would want to retain ownership of my music. On one hand it seems that the exclusive model forces me to give up my rights to ownership of the music, but is the way that things “have always been done”. On the other hand, the non-exclusive method may allow me more exposure, but the name of my composition will be changed and the music modified to suit the needs of someone else trying to make money from my efforts. Do I have this wrong?

    1. “How is a newbee like myself supposed to decide which method (exclusive or non-exclusive) to use?”

      Hey Dave,

      That’s tough to answer completely because it’s not a simple answer. You’ll find your own personal strategy as you discover your strengths and weaknesses. But to answer some of you what posed:

      “..exclusive model forces me to give up my rights to ownership of the music”
      With most exclusive deals (always will be exceptions) you’ll keep 100% of your songwriting royalties – the library will want 100% of the publishing royalties (that’s their reward for placing your music and making you money). So that’s the common 50/50 split you’ve read about. Also, if there’s a sync license fee (the fee a company pays to the library to sync your music to their images – TV; Commercial, etc) some libraries will split that with you.

      “..the music modified to suit the needs of someone else trying to make money from my efforts”
      Exactly! They’ll change the title and in most cases will need to edit the song (alter the layout) so the client can make use of your track. But you’ll get paid.

      You’re correct about non-exclusive (NE)- you can place that piece of music into multiple NEs.

      And regarding Exclusive – personally, I write for Exclusives only if the deal is better than if I placed that music in a NE. But everyone makes their own call on what they consider is worth the Exclusive agreement. And many composers do both.

      Did that help address the things you were most concerned about?


  2. The thing is that a lot of these non-exclusive libraries that are getting placements that produce back-end royalties are eventually moving more towards exclusive deals. So it may just be a matter of time before they all go the same route as SK, which (for now) will still offer non-exclusive deals but put more priority on the exclusive tracks.

    In the last 3 years I’ve seen more & more libraries doing this. Almost every non RF library that I started working with 5 years ago on a non-exclusive basis has either moved completely exclusive or partially exclusive.

  3. While I agree that giving exclusives to libraries that mainly do backend only, cable reality TV cues is not a good deal, a few points… Not defending the switch that libraries such as SK and JP made… I didn’t go exclusive with either because it didn’t seem right to me and I’m glad I made that decision.

    (1) The article by Vaughn is at least a few years old, maybe even 4-5 years old by now. Market conditions do change in fairness to him. But I wouldn’t call him out on something he wrote that long ago.

    (2) DI, I’m not sure pulling your tracks is such a good idea because (a) placements from any library, exclusive or not, can take years (or never happen) so it’s hard to draw conclusions and (b) It could be a definite bridge burner, especially with SK. Is that worth it? What would you do with the tracks next?

    DI, when you say you are pulling your tracks, do you mean not renewing the contract when it expires at the end of its term (I think 5 years) or are you contacting asking them to pull sooner? The latter is an absolute bridge burner.

    1. I don’t believe in sunk costs or burning bridges. When one opportunity closes, others open up.

      For the most part, any tracks that are being removed would not be sent out to other companies unless some request came up that needed a specific kind of music onn a non-exclusive basis. I am not actively working to license tracks that I made 5 years ago. That will definitely mean less music available for licensing.

      But I am moving my sound into new directions. I have to let go of the past in order to move forward. So far, certain libraries have not promised what they stated. I see no inclination on their part to fulfill those promises on my behalf. When my music is removed, it will be replaced by music from many other composers.

      Even though the library has made money from my music, they will not go out of business once my tracks are removed. In the same token, I will not really lose anything. The tracks that have been licensed will continue to make money. The tracks that were not licensed will do nothing just as if they were never submitted to the library.

      I just see a lot of people being taken advantage of these days. The heavy-handed deals from most of these deals never materialize into something good for most composers. A handful will do extremely well (5% to 10%), a few more will do marginally good (20% to 30%), and the rest will do nothing at all (60% to 75%).

      I just remember all of the hype about having more opportunities for placements with major networks, placements for commercials, more opportunities for sync fees, more participation for more backend deals. A few years later, most of us get the same backend placements on cable shows. The PRO royalties per placement are about the same as the non-exclusive cues were. Synce fees are not increasing. Direct licenses are still being made.

      I know that business needs change for the library. But my business needs are changing as well. I am not making a change based solely on the words that were put on paper. I am changes based on the amount of money that I am not getting. I should be making more money from participating exclusively. Since I am not, it is time to change things.

      I cannot speak for others, but I am moving forward. I don’t believe in sunk costs or burning bridges. When one opportunity closes, others open up.

      1. “Even though the library has made money from my music, they will not go out of business once my tracks are removed…”

        Whew!! That’s a relief, DI!! 😉 😛

          1. “I can’t get ahead doing the same thing over and over.”

            Not because you aren’t talented, but because you are in a very crowded genre. Everybody’s doing the “same thing.”

            1. I wish that was the case. I have music in many different genres. Hip-hop, Electronica, Pop, Ethnic, Lounge/Downtempo, and others. I have at least one song licensed in each one of these genres. That is not to say that I am a guru or music God (maybe I am. LMFAO! :-)).

              But I have worked extremely hard at making music. I still have an enormous amount of information to learn, digest, and implement. But I know that I have done a great deal on my end and others have not done their part.

              I am not disgruntled or even angry. I am simply disappointed in what was presented to me. I have learned and now it is time for me to look within myself to see what I can do to change things.

              Anyway, it isn’t all about me. Other composers were lead astray as well. Their journeys, stories, successes, failures, and lessons matter even more than mine does. The broader community of composers has the right to not be exploited. Most composers work hard and search to find ways to succeed. Hopefully, some bad deals will not stop people from moving forward and attaining their dreams and goals.

      2. “I just remember all of the hype about having more opportunities for placements with major networks, placements for commercials, more opportunities for sync fees, more participation for more backend deals. A few years later, most of us get the same backend placements on cable shows. The PRO royalties per placement are about the same as the non-exclusive cues were. Synce fees are not increasing. Direct licenses are still being made.”

        Really the heart of the matter. I remember an ad for PMP that was in ASCAP’s magazine years ago, or maybe it was on their website. It was an artist testimonial in which the composer said that she made enough money from PMP to use as a “downpayment on a house.”

        It doesn’t get any more pie n the sky than that!

        1. It’s true about the house, Michael… In fact, here is a picture of the composer, his wife, and the house… ;)http://i.ytimg.com/vi/tqB4IFSDY4Q/maxresdefault.jpg

  4. Sorry, but this guy is a hypocrite. He wrote something similar on a different site a couple years ago bashing exclusive libraries that don’t pay upfront money. Now scorekeepers does exactly that.

    Wake up composers. Why in the hell would you write exclusively for a library that does blanket licenses and you only receive royalties? This is the perfect example of feeding a corrupt industry.

    Yes, I was stupid and have written some sk music. But I quickly learned it was a race to the bottom

    1. I am with you.

      I am in the process of removing music from libraries that switched from non-ex to exclusive. I am looking at my PRO statements and see no huge increase in royalties. I am not get I g my music placed on more large network shows. The sync fees are non-existent as well.

      It is easy to get frustrated but hard to get smart. I decided to get smart and take back control of my music. That will mean less songs in the marketplace. But I already feel as if adding more and more songs results in less and less benefits.

      The promise of big backend royalties is easy for libraries to promise. Companies get the music for free, collect blanket license fees, provide direct licenses, and have the opportunity to make half of the royalties for all placements. Writers get a chance to collect a few pennies for their efforts.

      You are not stupid by the way. You were deceived as I was by certain companies. But now that we know more, we can make smarter decisions. Learning a lesson like this puts composers in power. There is no need to feel bad, as we gain more opportunities by walking away from bad deals.

  5. “This is an old post from a year or two back I believe. Funny how their stance has changed.”

    True, their stance has changed, but the business has changed, as well.

    “If this is true, then why is SKM not reviewing any non-exclusive submissions anymore?”

    I’ve been told, by a friend who writes a fair amount of music for SK, that they simply have enough non-exclusive material. They don’t need, or want any more.

    That makes complete sense. When libraries like, SK and JP were new, they needed content, and they didn’t have money to pay for it. So, they dangled the non-exclusive carrot out there. Now that they have track records, and tons of content, they can afford to be be choosy.

    1. “That makes complete sense. When libraries like, SK and JP were new, they needed content, and they didn’t have money to pay for it. So, they dangled the non-exclusive carrot out there. Now that they have track records, and tons of content, they can afford to be be choosy.”

      SK and JP still aren’t paying for exclusive music from non-staff or the very few WFH composers.

      1. “SK and JP still aren’t paying for exclusive music from non-staff or the very few WFH composers.”

        I know. I didn’t mean to suggest that they were now paying for content. The point is that they believe that they have enough non-exclusive content.

  6. “Main advantage of working with non-exclusive libraries is to have more chance for licensing so that composers can have more revenue IMO.”

    @JunL you cannot lump all non-exclusive libraries into the same category. Libraries, like Scorekeepers and libraries like MusicLoops are both non-exclusive, but both do not re-title…a major difference.

    I am not convinced the placing music into multiple libraries that re-title actually provides a composer with any more opportunities to license their music, especially if multiple libraries send your music to the SAME client. It give the client multiple opportunities to regret the same track and to get pi**ed off that they’ve heard it four times under four different titles.

    1. Do all non-exclusive retitle libraries really send their music to the same people? I have heard of this being a common complaint. But is the licensing world that small where MusicSupe X gets a hard drive full of music from libraries A to Z?

      My thought is similar to the solution in criticism #2: “I offer a solution: You don’t need to rule out all non-exclusive libraries, you just need to rule out all but one.”

      Choosing one non-exclusive library to work with makes sense for blanket placements. I really do not see the practical advantage of a Music Supe working with more than one non-exclusive anyway.

  7. Hello.
    Thanks for the information and advice.
    Although I’m a newbie and don’t have many experience yet, I have some questions about working with non-exlusive libraries.

    Actually I think that the advantage of working with non-exclusive libraries is not right perfectly(is right partially).
    Main advantage of working with non-exclusive libraries is to have more chance for licensing so that composers can have more revenue IMO. But actually non-exclusive libraries have much more tracks than exclusive libraries.
    Therefore, I think that it seems to be no big difference between having tracks sold in few exclusive libraries at the ratio of 1(my tracks) : 3000(other tracks) and having tracks sold in many non-exclusive libraries at the ratio of 1(my track) : 100000(other tracks). so it seems that the thing that influences the chance for licensing is other things such as how wide the tracks are spread(around the Earth) rather than non-exclusive VS exclusive library.

    Second thing I guess is that if many many composers work with non-exclusive, that will make everyone hard.
    I just thought the situation that many non-exclusive libraries have 10,000,000+ tracks individually. It’s not impossible IMHO with today’s and future’s composers with evolving computer music tools. In that situation, my(or your) tracks will be sold at the ratio of 1 : 10,000,000.
    How do you think about this matter?
    hope some advice,


  8. Hi euca,

    That is an excellent question. There are many fundamental differences between the royalty free model and other library models. The largest differences are the client base and how the music gets used. Those differences can be over-simplified into broadcast and non-broadcast. I say over-simpified because the lines aren’t hard and fast. And, within broadcast, there is national, local, cable and internet.

    Each potential client may be stratified, as well. For example, take pharmaceutical companies. If you watch any network evening news broadcast you notice that its saturated with big pharma ads (because of the demographic that watches the news). Those same companies also produce tons of non-broadcast videos to train employees, to introduce new meds to doctors and to update shareholders. They also have corporate sales meetings.

    ALL of these things use music, BUT, the music is likely to come from different sources. Budgets for network ads are high. However, when you get down to the level of non-broadcast product and training videos, and local ads the budgets are very low, and the videos are often produced in-house. Budgets for corporate internet promotion are even lower. In addition, there are thousands of non-broadcast documentary and informational video and film producers that use music. Of course, there’s also the kid down the street making youtube videos.

    But….to answer your question, I don’t see the majority royalty free companies following the exclusive model, especially if they’re not seeking broadcast clients. For one thing, the direction of the content flow is different. Customers search RF sites for what they want. They may find the same tracks on several sites, but that is very different than being PITCHED that same track by five different libraries. The annoyance factor isn’t there, and that is what the FMN job post was speaking to.



  9. @Synth, I’m not predicting the end of retitling. I’m observing a shift in focus, among a number of libraries that is worth noting.

    There is an important difference between then and now. The libraries that used to predict the downfall of retitling were EXCLUSIVE libraries that NEVER liked the non-exclusive model. Now, some non-exclusive libraries, for reasons mentioned in the FMN job post, are shifting their focus toward exclusive material. That’s a palpable change, which may have an effect on how much new material they sign, and how they promote their catalogs.

    Obviously, the non-exclusive libraries are aware of something, if they are now building exclusive catalogs. The point of my post was not to predict the end of retitling, but to say this is a trend worth noticing, for several reasons. First, you may decide to continue doing what you’re doing…business as usual. OR, you may choose to take advantage of the exclusive option being provided by some “non-exclusive” libraries. It may well be that the latter option offers better opportunities for more lucrative placements.

    This is a waste of time.

    1. Hey Michael,
      Not a waste of time! Very good post I thought. Do you think RF libraries will follow the exclusive model as well? Or do you think it would effect more of the TV placement type model?

    2. Hard to know what to think of this trend. On the one hand I can see the library’s point of view, they are driven by market conditions. On the other there’s probably more than a better chance that many of those songs, that have been signed exclusively, will sit without a placement and will be tied up for a number of years. The argument can be made that one great placement will more than make up for those just sitting. It’s not been the case in my experience with exclusives and some here have had the same experience. Maybe I’m just too much of a control freak!

      1. Hi Art,

        I think that there is a middle ground…a limited term exclusive agreement. Let a library have a track exclusively for a few years. If nothing happens, remove it and put it somewhere else. However, if you think of it, if that track was in five different libraries and all of those libraries pitched that track for the same job (which is the complaint) and the track wasn’t selected…it’s the track, not the library, that isn’t working.

        I recently had a conversation with a non-eclusive library owner. I determined that his core client base is somewhat different than some of the other non-exclusives, and more appropriate for what I write. So, rather than waste my time submitting 100 tracks to the other library, only to have 99 rejected, I’d be willing to give him exclusivity on some tracks.

        Remember this kind of exclusive is different. It is exclusive representation not exclusive ownership.

        My 2 cents.


        PS. hope the unpacking is going well!

        1. Hi Michael,

          You are right, of course, about the limited term exclusive agreement. It’s the best way to go and I neglected to mention that the exclusives that I do have, are of that type. My experience with those exclusives (and there have been placements) tend to still leave me in the non-exclusive camp, at least for now.

          Unpacking is going well. Last room to do is the studio, which I will tackle today. Time to start hanging the Real Traps!

          1. ……and untangling the wiring and trying to find that connector you knew you put in a special place , but now cant remember. There is a certain Zen like frame of mind you nedd when it comes to installing studios LOL

            1. Yes, I’m putting it off as we speak. So many boxes and so many excuses I can come up with! I also forgot how challenging installing Real Traps can be with one person.

              Okay here I go, diving in!

  10. Here’s some more evidence of changing sentiment regarding retitling. This is part of job listing that was posted on FMN today.

    “Music that we accept into our library is ours to license exclusively. The reason we require exclusivity, is because the market is now flooded with libraries that take music on a non-exclusive basis and re-title those compositions. The market to which we sell, can potentially hear the same song offered by several libraries with different song titles at different prices. We want our clients to know that when their dealing with us their getting a unique original product and the only place they can get it, is from us. That’s our business model. People don’t want to hear the same old same old from everywhere.”

    Gael McGregor used to scream that retitling would devalue your music.
    So, here it is in black & white from another library. It’s simple supply and demand economics. Not only is there too much music in the marketplace, there is too much of the SAME music in too many places. The customers / clients/ buyers are now hip to that fact and they are tired of it. Anyone who has collected anything..coins, stamps, antiques baseball cards knows that the more limited the quantity, rare or unique that something is the more valuable it is.
    Customer dissatisfaction will potentially do more immediate harm to the practice than any long drawn out legal challenges.

    I don’t know who the library is. It’s a blind posting, so I don’t know where they fit in the food chain.

    1. Libraries have been prophesizing the downfall of non-exclusive retitle libraries for years now. In the meantime, I keep signing songs to non-exclusive retitle libraries and keep making money.

      I would love to get my music into a good exclusive library. But most are just too slow to review my music. Most never even give a rejection. One exclusive library that did want me to sign took months to approve my music. I had already had those songs signed to another library and had a placement.

      I have thrown in the towel in regards to exclusive libraries with the exception of one. This library is small and actually assigns song ideas for me to write to. This library is promising. The only exclusive library that I dream of getting music into is the Universal Music library. All of the other guys are not worth the hassle.

    2. Hi Michael, how have ya been? I saw that post today. What I took from it was that clients could “potentially” hear the same song offered by several libraries. Not that it is happening. I’ve also read in the past (maybe Gael posted it?) that supervisors don’t have the time or inclination to shop multiple libraries. They have one or two “go to ” places they trust and that’s it. Just an observation…

      1. Hi Michael,

        Doing fine. Thanks for asking. You? Really busy. I need to set up a “production schedule” to get it all done. I’m writing for the shows and starting to rework my catalog one track at a time. Only 1500 to go. 😆

        You’re reading of the FMN post is valid. It doesn’t say that they have experienced that scenario. The inference is that they are hearing comments from clients along those lines. The statement is far less strident than Geal’s posts, but nonetheless reflects, even if vaguely, a palpable attitude, or at least their perception of the situation. As they say in advertising, perception is reality.

        I’ve spent a lot of time with editors over the past year. With respect to the people that I’m working with, you are correct. They had been relying on one, maybe two exclusive libraries to score all of their shows.



        1. Good luck getting your cues done! Production schedule is the way to do it. Back when I had a bunch of custom writing work for Macmillan Educational Publishing I made them up all the time. Never missed a deadline!

          1. Thanks Michael. The TV stuff will be a 5 to 10-year process of library building. The 1500 tracks is my back catalog that I’m reworking simultaneously. No horrendous deadlines, on either end, but I’d like to get my catalog out faster.

  11. I wouldn’t exactly call this a non-exclusive agreement:

    “Free to place on own but not with another library”

  12. “To me it looks like the only thing that has really changed is that they are only doing “direct pitches” to specific shows etc. with the exclusive/custom cue tracks… ”

    That makes sense. It’s the best way to avoid being one of five libraries pitching the same track.

    That also comports with what I heard.

    Thanks Steve.


  13. “we only accept high quality cues that are sonically and compositionally useful in television underscore. We champion quantity when it’s quality.”


    ScoreKeepers denied all my tracks.
    Another library picked them up.

    I been making placements since then..
    with the same tracks. (upfronts & backends royalties)

    One person opinion means nothing to me

    1. That’s the way it works in this world. Initially (a few years ago) they took much of what I submitted. Lately they have taken very little though those same tracks are getting picked up and placed by other libraries.

  14. Hi Vaughn,

    I just re-read your FM article, posted above. I was wondering if your perspective has changed since you wrote that article.

    I seems that more libraries are going exclusive, or offering that option. What do you think the status of re-titling is today, and where do you see it going?

    Thank you for your valuable opinion.


    Art: if Vaughn doesn’t see this, maybe you could ask him for a follow-up.

      1. Thanks Art.

        I’m just curious. I’ve heard rumblings which perhaps suggest a change of approach
        at Scorekeepers.

        Always looking to the future.



          1. Yes, Scorekeepers is only taking exclusive tracks now. Though they’re keeping the non-exclusive tracks. But I get the feeling from an Scorekeeper’s email that they won’t be promoting the non-exclusive tracks they already have (unless you make them exclusive, by signing their new agreement).

            Times are always changing, aren’t they?

            “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

              1. Was that your first signing with Scorekeepers Euca? I was told that all deals forward will have to be exclusive. Make sure you read the contract carefully.

                1. From the email I got from Ryan, ScoreKeepers is still working their non-exclusive catalog. They are simply providing clients the option of either purchasing songs exclusively or non-exclusive.

                  They are giving writers the following options:

                  1) change all existing tracks you have with them from non-exclusive to exclusive.
                  2) leave all existing tracks as non-exclusive
                  3) Only place any new tracks you submit to them as exclusive.

                2. “3) Only place any new tracks you submit to them as exclusive” – Ryan

                  Which tells me the non-exclusive tracks are being placed on the back-burner and they aren’t accepting anymore non-exclusive tracks.

            1. They are still taking non-exclusive tracks and still placing cues that are signed non-exclusively. I signed a number of tracks non-exclusively to them about a month or so ago and most of my placements (including the most recent ones) are tracks that I have signed non-exclusively.

              To me it looks like the only thing that has really changed is that they are only doing “direct pitches” to specific shows etc. with the exclusive/custom cue tracks… or maybe just for certain requests that come in that can’t be satisfied with their existing library. So if you want to write for a specific show through them, its going to have to be exclusive. But that doesn’t mean none of your non-exclusives will get used. I remember a show that they sent out a custom cue request for… I didn’t submit anything but that show still ended up using a couple of my tracks that I had signed non-exclusively with Scorekeepers.


              1. Thanks Steve. That is pretty much how Ryan presented it to me. He did say that when uploading cues, exclusives move to the front of the line.

            2. Strange. I’ve been uploading non-exclusive tracks every other week as recently as last week. Never got any communication from him about any changes.

  15. Hi Vaughn,

    I’ve been with your library about a year and have begun to see some backend…great! Thanks for your article, it really eases my increasing concern about whether I should only be pursuing exclusive deals going forward. I recently wrote a few tracks for an exclusive library, but I feel comfortable leaving my existing tracks with non-exclusives such as yours. It seems like you can do a little of both as long as you keep writing.


  16. In answer to Steve, but also to make some generally useful comments, let me say that I have written and produced tracks for two exclusive libraries and one non-exclusive.

    Both the exclusive libraries have paid substantial fees upfront for the tracks, whether vocal or instrumental. Personally, I would completely avoid any company that wants to pay nothing for EXCLUSIVE rights to your work.

    The one non-exclusive company that I work with is rather small, and while they seem to love me, I have yet to get one placement from them. Someday, maybe, but not yet. I will be very happy when they do, because I will be entitled to half the sync fees, but so far, nada.

    On the other hand, both the exclusive companies have placed songs of mine, and while the back-end money still hasn’t equaled what I was initially paid upfront, I have seen more activity over time.

    Finally, thank you, Vaughn, for your comprehensive and well articulated post. I believe that most of the trouble with retitling comes from music supervisors getting confused on the receiving end. I suspect that some high-end sups who are looking for cool new vocal tracks to place in key spots on their TV shows want it to seem as though they found a new band, with a new CD, and personally delivered a unique piece of coolness from it right to your TV set. If that same song is represented by a library under a different name, it loses some of that built-in status. But most tracks, especially instrumental ones, wouldn’t be seen that way, and so the retitled version is just as valuable.


    1. Hey Chris,

      Vaughn’s argument sounds rational, but I’m still on the fence. I think that most composers feel comfortable with steps 1 + 2. It’s step 3 — “get it repped” that is the stumbling block.
      If you could shed some light, I’m sure that you’ll have an eager audience.

      I’m literally digging out from a natural disaster + computer failure here. I’ve been out of commission for almost two months! When the last insurance adjuster rides off into the sunset, I’ll be more than ready to get back to steps 1 + 2 AND 3.



      1. Are you in Nashville Michael? Just curious because we had a major flood May 2nd. It’s been crazy for a lot of people. Hope you recover soon.

        1. Hey, the other Steve,

          No. I’m outside of Philly. We had 75 mph straight line winds, golf-ball sized hail and flooding. I had an 80 foot oak tree fall across my yard, and tons of hail damage to my house. Lost power and communications for several days. Still cleaning up.

          I know that Nashville was hit hard. I wish you the best.


    2. Hey Vaughn,

      Thanks for giving your point of view. Can you shed some light on the following statement?

      **Composers, do you think that if there is an opportunity for exclusive libraries to make money from your music they will say, “No thanks, that track has been tainted with non-exclusivity”?**

      Why would an exclusive library pay someone for a track after they give it up to a non-exclusive library for no money? The composer already set a value of $0 for their track by allowing a non-exclusive library to earn revenue from the track without giving any upfront consideration.

      Why would someone want to buy similar rights to a piece of work after it has already been given away?

      1. John,

        Obviously I’m not Vaughn, but what I think he might be referring to is the fact that at any given time, you can have your track completely removed from the Scorekeepers catalog to secure another deal. So, if you had a track sitting in the Scorekeepers library and were offered a deal from an exclusive library, you could extract your track from Scorekeepers and sign it with the exclusive library. What I think Vaughn is trying to say is, the exclusive library won’t have a problem with the fact that it was once in a non-exclusive library as long as it is no longer tied up in a contract or in a catalog. Whether that is true or not, I really have no idea. But, I think that that is what Vaughn meant by that statement.

        There are a few things I would like to mention regarding my experience with exclusives and non-exclusives. This isn’t specifically to John, but just as general info for anybody who cares to read it. Take it for what its worth:

        (1) There seems to be this misconception that exclusive libraries actually pay upfront money for cues *most* of the time. So far, in my experience, I have not seen that to be true for instrumentals. There are a few major libraries who will pay a good up front fee for *songs*, but there doesn’t seem to be that many libraries paying upfront for instrumentals anymore. And, when you do get upfront money you are usually surrendering any cut you would get of the sync fee. Also, any of these kinds of libraries are extremely hard to get into for obvious reasons.

        (2) A number of people seem to think that exclusives are better at getting placements than non-exclusives, or that they at least get “higher profile” placements. I have found this to be totally untrue.

        Currently, I have supplied music for 3 exclusive libraries, 1 work-for-hire, and 5 non-exclusives. Two of the non-exclusive libraries I work with deal almost exclusively with songs, so I won’t count them as I have only done 2 songs so far. Its impossible to fairly judge a library’s performance when you only have 1 song in its catalog.

        All 3 exclusive libraries paid me nothing up front, and I have made $0.00 in performance royalties over about a 3 year time frame and absolutely no sign of any performance royalty generating placements. I have received some sync royalties from one library, but the amount is less than $150.00 and these were for non-broadcast placements. I have a total of about 40 tracks in the 3 exclusive libraries, so not exactly a small number. One of these libraries I have only been with for about a year, so I will cut them some slack.

        Now lets look at the 3 non-exclusives. When I started supplying music for these companies, I got placements immediately. I wasn’t notified by any of the libraries of the placements, but instead found out about them by flipping through the channels and just happening to hear them. One time, I heard one of my tracks on TV within a month of me submitting it!

        So, 3 exclusives in 3 years: no placements (I can’t really count low paying, non-broadcast “placements” as placements). 3 non-exclusives and within a matter of weeks after submission I’ve got placements all over the place. Probably more than I know of.

        My point in all this is to make people aware that it definitely isn’t the MODEL, but is instead the individual library that counts. There are exclusive and non-exclusive libraries that suck, and there are also exclusive and non-exclusive libraries that are incredible. And, as far as instrumentals go, you can probably forget about getting a sync fee or upfront money. So you really have to focus on performance royalties, which means working for companies who get placements, and lots of them. Regardless of their business model.


      2. Hi John,

        An exclusive library would be buying exclusive rights to the track. Therein lies the difference.

  17. Non exclusives do not seem all that bad. But there are just too many companies to choose from. I think that if I could sort through all of the companies and find 5 good companies, I would be fine.

  18. Hi anon, whomever you are. You are most welcome. I appreciate the feedback form others here as well.

    Regarding your question, I don’t have a strong opinion, but do have some additional questions: For those composers who prefer the non-exclusive model, don’t you think that putting your tracks in multiple libraries increases your chance of getting a placement? For those who choose to divide their tracks among different non-exclusives, how do your decide which tracks to put where? What do you feel is the upside to have your track represented by only one non-exclusive library? The library owner in me would of course prefer you didn’t have the same tracks with our competitors, but I support your right to do whatever you want with your creative works. The composer in me would pick a few companies that have a good track record making placements in my area of interest, and give them all a shot at it.

    1. Hi Vaughn
      The arguments against putting tracks in multiple non-exclusive libraries are pretty similar to the things you referenced in your post– devaluing the music, conflicts, etc. It’s been said that if a music sup is interested in a piece of music but realizes he/she has the same track from mulitple sources, he/she might pass on the track rather than risk any problems or hassles. Or, there could be a bidding war. Some composers feel that the more we duplicate, the worse it gets for composers and libraries as a whole and we damage the industry. So many libaries are out there sending media with thousands of tracks to music sups, many of the tracks being duplicates… (Not saying I agree or disagree, just reiterating what I’ve heard)…

      So I’m always torn betwen using multiple libraries to increase the chance of placement (I do think it usually does) or staying away from that because of these concerns.

      Thanks again.

  19. Thanks Vaughn!
    I’m one of your composers and you have made placements of my tracks. Appreciate all you do!

    Question… In light of your post above, do you think composers should avoid putting the same tracks in multiple non-exclusive libraries? This is the topic of much discussion among composers.

    Warmest Regards,

  20. Thank U Vaughn for sharing this.. very positive & makes great sense to me.
    I have personally requested for tracks to be removed to be exclusively elsewhere & ScoreKeepers definitely keep their word & immediately removed those tracks.
    They have also been very attentive & quick at replying any problems & questions I’ve had..
    Really appreciate that..


  21. Thanks for this. It’s an issue I’ve been wondering about as a complete noob to the industry so this gives a great positive perspective for the practice.

  22. Excellent article Vaughn!

    I’ve been struggling with this issue for some time. Thanks for blowing the dust out of my brain. I see things a little clearer now.

  23. I’m so glad that Vaughn took the time to write this. I’ve been waiting to hear a well-articulated viewpoint from a non-exclusive library. Thank you Vaughn!

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